The Monstrous Feminine: Dark Tales of Dangerous Women edited by Cin Ferguson and Broos Campbell
The Monstrous Feminine is the perfect example of why I love horror. And why I am compelled to write horror, myself.
In reading this book, I suddenly felt that I was handed not just the one sister I have always wished for, but fourteen of them. Like Anne Shirley when she finally found the “kindred spirit” she’d been longing for (who else was a little sad when she “grew up”?). Of course, I’m an introvert, so I’ll just quietly sign up for these authors’ newsletters and read their words at a distance. (I’m fast becoming a fan of Michelle Renee Lane, as you may have guessed from my earlier review here on Madness Heart Press of her book Invisible Chains.)
But, just for a little while, I had the chance to not feel the lonely part of outsider-aloneness while reading these stories by my fellow women horror/speculative fiction writers.
These stories accomplished that, even though they are fictional, by managing to capture experiences of what it is to be a woman in reality. And that made the stories both haunting and comforting. I was instantly drawn into that paradoxical experience by the opening story, “Welcome Home” by Donna J. W. Munro. It was haunting because I know what it’s like to be a Sweetie, and it was comforting, because someone else knows what it’s like to live in a situation like that. And that’s what made me feel not so alone in this confusing time and space that I’m dealing with right now. Because most every one of these stories is about what it is to be a woman, and the horror is simply a vehicle to illustrate how I/we feel at different times in our lives. In some of the stories this veneer of horror is graphic and violent, but it’s deeply rooted in how women feel at different times, and ages, in their lives.
And so it continued. The stories in this collection persisted in ripping out my heart and then putting it back; strangely, feeling a little less full of pain and holes than it did before it was ripped out. And I felt more centered and whole and yet like crying and I wanted to run outside and scream at the sky Yes, someone gets it and I didn’t feel so lost and messed up by this crazy swirl of shifting hormones and yes, I felt liberated because I wouldn’t do any of these things but as a woman you’re so angry and fed up and the power of women as liberated by the horror in some of these stories is empowering you and you don’t feel so powerless by everything at the tail end of your life even though you’re “only” middle-aged because you have no idea where you go from the spot that you’re in.
And the reason you feel so powerless is because you want to stop the war against trees and animals and the ocean and the earth and young girls just like you before you were forced to grow up by the time you were a teenater and abandon your dreams and your sense of self and you fight and fail and keep fighting and keep failing for those who are also disempowered and then you read Leadie Jo Flowers’ “Mother of All” and she GETS IT and even though the story is fiction you have hope for the first time in a long time, and definitely since you failed to get better protections for horses in New Mexico even though it was probably a lost cause because you were the only one fighting, you want to believe that things will be different someday and that the real-life equivalent of Flowers’ main character will win out over greed and hate and soullessness and cruelty.
And you want to believe that there’s a world where girls (and women) can tap into an ancient power to defeat the forces that are continually working against them at every moment of every day, and you wish that was true for young women in real life, but you still love to see the instigators of said forces get their comeuppance and you revel in these literary examples of women taking what they want because it’s so satisfying, but you wish, once again, that it was like that in real life and not in a collection of horror stories and you hope for that maybe someday when you will also have fourteen sisters in real life and you move through a world where you will never, ever, have to be scared and alone and powerless to fight against the way the world shouldn’t be.